Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pacific Grove Race Report: Caught in the Kelp

I pretty much had a disaster of a race, although I did win the u23 division. (Disregard the fact that I was the only u23...)

This was me giving my "victory speech" on the podium, all by myself.
This is what the podium is supposed to look like...

Now onto the race: So the swim at Pacific Grove is known as the "Kelp Krawl". The massive amounts of kelp in the ocean make swimming nearly impossible at some points and you find yourself simply grabbing on to slimy patches of kelp and pulling your whole body along. The danger is that it is easy to get caught and tangled in this kelp. Due to this factor, everybody tends to stay in one giant pack on the swim, which leads to a giant pack on the bike, and finally it turns into a runners race. That sounded just fine with me. But Pac Grove 2008 went a bit differently...

So the gun goes off and I have a fast, clean start. I'm sprinting out near the front and feeling pretty good. Then we hit the first kelp patch. I was caught a little off guard and decided I needed to settle in on somebody's feet and hope that they clear out a path for me. I wasn't great at navigating myself through these giant kelp patches, and it's tough to pull yourself through with very tired arms. I wound up at the tail end of the 2nd pack, which wasn't too far behind the first. The swim was 2 laps. About 2/3 through the 2nd lap, as I went around a buoy my timing chip got caught on a piece of kelp, and it was strong enough that it was just holding me in place. I had to stop, turn around, and pull it off myself. In the process I lost contact with my pack. I panicked. I started sprinting. Slowly but surely I began making up ground. I got closer and closer and could finally feel the draft returning. I settled back in. "Phew, that was a close one" I thought to myself. With about 25 meters left I was feeling okay. We hit the last patch of kelp. My timing chip got caught again, not once, but twice. I lost a lot of time untangling myself. I exited the water in no man's land.

I got out on the bike and could see the packs forming up the road. I was going as hard as I could. I looked behind me: nobody. Up ahead I was too far away to catch anyone. This was disastrous. Finally, I noticed a couple guys pretty far behind me. I sat up and got my feet into my shoes and just hoped there'd be some strong cyclists to work with. Ultimately I started working with 2 others. We were the 3rd pack. We were losing massive amounts of time to the 2 6-man packs ahead. I went as hard on the bike as I could, but it was really just damage control. I was hoping that if we minimized our losses I could run some people down. We got off the bike many minutes back and I went to work. I hammered the first lap of the run, but even if I had run a 30 minute 10k I wouldn't have made up any places. After about 5k I began to shut it down and save my effort for Portland this weekend. I still split 32:25, but the run course was pretty short. I believe I took 12th place.

Needless to say I was very disappointed, but it seems like every race this year has been an adventure and I learn something new. I should have tucked my timing chips under my wetsuit. Lesson learned. I'm staying in Davis, CA for a few days with Steve Sexton and Kevin Collington. We all had some good laughs about the race and how it played out in the exact opposite way that we all expected.

During the awards ceremony I was unexpectedly called up to the podium for winning the Under-23 division. I had no idea that there was even going to be U23 awards. It's the tradition for all the winners to make a speech. So I had to wing it. I was the only person standing up there, and my speech went something like: "Yeah I knew that the U23's were going to be really competitive this year, but I came out here and did what I had to do to win it..." It got a little laugh.

Wish me luck in Portland!

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